When I was a very little girl my I took my first train ride, leaving from Lansing's Union Depot and going to Detroit to meet my favorite author, Carolyn Haywood, at Hudson's department store. I don't remember a lot about that day apart from meeting the author and then sitting on the floor of the women's clothing department reading my book while my mother shopped. But I also remember the train ride.
Years later that train depot was decommissioned and purchased privately, eventually becoming a restaurant known as Clara's.
It was filled with antiques including Tiffany lamps (some authentic, some reproductions), chandeliers, a classic clock and other treasures, many from throughout the community.
Clara's became a popular gathering place for all kinds of occasions. I'd often meet friends there for lunch, particularly enjoying their thin-crust pizza (a food discussion upon which there was no clear-cut agreement!). When my friend Suzanne came home, it was often a key stopping point!
My family gathered there after my uncle Martin's burial service to share memories -- a classic Lansing family in a classic Lansing restaurant.
And on happier occasions, it was the site of meetings. Rick first met my friends Mike and Kate there and it is where Kevin introduced Rick and me to Molly, the wonderful woman he would make his wife.
The restaurant was well converted into a lovely, comfortable, reasonably priced place. Details were maintained. The hostess station was the old ticket booth.
And eventually a dining car was added as an extension to the restaurant.
Clara's closed this month. After 37 years, the owners were faced with huge needs for renovation -- resurfacing the parking lot and replacing an expensive roof among them.
Road construction that lasted for several years on the street outside caused a business drop and it just didn't seem as feasible as it once did.
So, Rick and I joined Mike and Kate for a last supper at Clara's. We weren't alone.
The place was packed and it seemed like everyone had a camera in hand. We certainly did!
As we walked through taking photos of the old metal piece from the original R.E. Olds mansion that was at the foot of the steps, I couldn't help but think about my many good times there.
I took a last look at my favorite pieces, like the three monkeys painting (which doesn't show up all that well here, but is simply magical).
The bar was cozy.
And I always loved sitting on the upper level where you had a wonderful view of everything and everyone.
There will be other restaurants, other pizzas, other lovely spots. And perhaps one day another establishment will move into this space and maintain some of the tradition and casual elegance.
But Clara's will indeed be missed in our community -- most certainly by me!
Time to go.
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